If I had written this morning, I would’ve told you about trying to write between morning tantrums, and then again amidst yogurt and blueberries and lots of chatter, while we watched the caterpillars in the container on the dining table, caterpillars the toddler found roaming the fennel fronds out in the garden. The garden now overgrown, jungle-like, tomato plants leaning on each other like drunk friends at the end of a long night. I would’ve forgotten to tell you that her dad took her outside to the garden, that in fact he was the one who spotted the caterpillars, who thought to get the little carrier from the garage and collect the fat critters carefully, fronds and all, a tiny, temporary habitat for her amusement and inspection. If we were a still life painting, we’d be called “Mother and Child Breakfast with Caterpillars.” You see, the father is not at the table. He’s already gone off to work, even on a holiday. Every day this man works. And yet, in the early morning hour before he goes, he finds a moment to walk to the garden with the bumbling, mercurial toddler, to spy a small creature, to gentle it into a container, to ask his daughter, what colors do you see? I don’t write enough about this man. All he does. All he is. Truest heart.
(Post 230 of 365)
I’ve spent too many posts relying on subtext to tell the truth of each day, so here’s one where I’ll state it plain.
I rode horses for a few years as a kid. Western style, not English. I remember the excitement of picking out real cowgirl boots. I know how to saddle, bridle, brush, and clean the caked mud from hooves. My body knows the rhythm of walk, trot, cantor, gallop. I love trail rides, but the ring is best for galloping. During a competition when I was ten, the saddle wasn’t tightened, and on the return loop, it slid from my horse taking me with it. I don’t remember the fall; I want to say I might’ve even landed on my feet. I know I managed not to get trampled. Once during a lesson, another horse bit mine and he reared up, front legs reaching into the air, chucking me backwards, but I held on. Those were the only memorable events, those and the time a horse stepped on my foot. I loved driving to the stable, the routine of readying the horse, just being close to those majestic creatures, and of course I loved to ride.
At some point during my pregnancy, I told my brother I missed riding horses. I don’t know what prompted it, I just wanted to be out in the woods horseback riding. A fleeting notion. Many months later, when my daughter was just 5 months old, my brother stopped by with a birthday present that he and my siblings had arranged. I’ll never forget, it was the middle of the day and he was dressed in his suit looking so polished and handsome. The baby had just dozed off and I was lying in bed with her, delirious from long-term sleep-deprivation. The place was surely a mess. By then my brother had a 2-year-old and understood, but I still felt embarrassed. He smiled, handed me an envelop, and whispered, “Open it.” Inside were two gift certificates to a stable a few towns away. Apparently the stable did not routinely offer gift certificates, but were happy to accommodate the request and created two by hand (see above picture). The font on the backside is mismatched and each certificate contains different information. He had to wait a bit while they made them up. We laughed and laughed, silent-don’t-wake-the-baby laughter bubbling into tears streaming down my cheeks, which turned into real tears after he’d left–I was so moved by the thoughtful nature of the gift, that he remembered after all that time, a whim from a passing conversation.
(Post 218 of 365)
Tonight a poem, well known and beloved. Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese. I keep this one on the side of my fridge. I love poetry. I love to hand copy poems, slow it down, become intimate with each word. There’s something sacred about it.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the
My whole body exhales. Relief. Guilt runs deep and thick in my Irish Catholic family. I feel it in the marrow of my bones. Just recently I realized that part of what this project is is claiming myself. Maybe that’s what the whole thing is about. And as I claim myself, I release guilt.
You only have to let the soft animal of
love what it loves.
Yes. Motherhood has taught me that.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will
tell you mine.
This is why we write. And why we read. And how we love.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear
pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the
clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh
and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Doesn’t she just leave you breathless and peaceful?